Introduction

For the first time in three years, less than 40,000 people died in motor-vehicle crashes in 2018.

Between 1913 and 2018, motor-vehicle deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles decreased 96%, from 33 to 1.42. In 1913, only 1.3 million vehicles were registered, and 4,200 people died on the road. In 2018, 277 million vehicles were registered and 39,404 people died on the road.

In 2018, the mileage death rate of 1.22 per 100 million vehicle miles was down 2.4% from the 2017 rate of 1.25.

Medically consulted injuries in motor-vehicle incidents totaled 4.5 million in 2018, and total motor-vehicle injury costs were estimated at $445.6 billion. Costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor-vehicle property damage, and employer costs.

Motor-vehicle deaths decreased 2.1% from 2017 to 2018, the first 2% decrease since 2013.

Miles traveled increased 0.9%, the number of registered vehicles went up 1.5%, and the population grew 0.5%. As a result, the mileage death rate decreased 2.4%, the vehicle death rate decreased 4.1%, and the population death rate was down 2.5% from 2017 to 2018.

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  • Data Table

Compared to 2009, 2018 motor-vehicle deaths increased by about 9%. However, the mileage and registration death rates changed less than 0.5% since 2009.

2018 motor-vehicle crash highlights

Deaths 39,404
Medically consulted injuries 4.5 million
Cost $445.6 billion
Motor-vehicle mileage 3.240 billion
Registered vehicles in the United States 277 million
Licensed drivers in the United States 228 million
Death rate per 100 million vehicle miles 1.22
Death rate per 10,000 registered vehicles 1.42
Death rate per 100,000 population 12.04

The National Safety Council (NSC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) count motor-vehicle crash deaths using somewhat different criteria. NSC counts total motor-vehicle-related fatalities – both traffic and non-traffic – that occur within one year of the crash. This is consistent with the data compiled from death certificates by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NSC uses NCHS death certificate data, less intentional fatalities, as the final count of unintentional deaths from all causes.

NHTSA counts only traffic fatalities that occur within 30 days of the crash in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). This omits about 800 to 1,000 motor-vehicle-related deaths each year that occur more than 30 days after the crash. Non-traffic fatalities – those that occur in parking lots, private roads, and driveways and account for 900 to 1,900 deaths annually – also are omitted. By using a 30-day cutoff, NHTSA can issue a “final” count about eight months after the reference year.

Provided below is a summary of NSC and NHTSA traffic crash data for 2017:

Motor-vehicle crash outcomes, United States, 2018

NSC estimates:

Severity Deaths or injuries Crashes Drivers (vehicles) involved
Total Motor Vehicle (deaths within 1 year) 39,404 36,300 54,100
Medically consulted injury 4,500,000 3,100,000 5,700,000
Property damage (including unreported) and non-disabling injury 10,400,000 18,300,000
Total  – 13,500,000 24,100,000

NHTSA estimates:

Severity Deaths or injuries Crashes Drivers (vehicles) involved
Traffic (deaths within 30 days) 36,560 33,654 50,126
Injury (disabling and non-disabling) 2,710,000 1,894,000 3,469,000
Police-reported property damage 4,807,000 8,464,000
Total 6,734,000 11,983,000

Source: NHTSA for deaths, injuries, and crashes in bottom half of table. All other figures are NSC estimates.